Once, when Tom was approaching hunting age and it was just the two of us on a long drive to visit family near the Canadian border, I surprised myself by talking to him about the sport as if he wermy contemporary. This took courage, because if he rejected my feelings on the subject, in a way he would be rejecting me. I started by explaining the cycles in nature, the notion of an animal's demise and decomposition enriching the soil. I told him that in death there is life, and that to me hunting was a way of keeping an ear to the earth and submersing myself into the bloodstream of the wilderness. I tried to make him understand that every corner of the dinner plate was the same, and that even the strictest vegetarian participated, if unknowingly, in clearing the land and eliminating deer and other animals that would otherwise live there. To be human was to kill. That was unavoidable. What mattered were the ethical underpinnings of hunting-killing with respect to the unwritten as well as the written rules. A hunter, a man who lived up to my definition anyway, adhered to the ethics of fair chase, killed cleanly, never took more than he needed, and honored the animal by not letting its meat go to waste. I went on for quite a while. He nodded, giving me his shy smile. Afterward, I thought I had just been talking to myself. Later, however, I would hear Tom repeat my arguments to doubters almost word for word. But whether he would ever feel a surge of blood upon seeing tracks in the snow, the pounding heart that binds us so purposely to the past-that was something only time could tell.